In the first of many planned interviews with prominent insurance lawyers, we were keen to hear about Paul’s background and experiences as a CILEx-qualified lawyer in the eighties and nineties, how he was one of the first CILEx-qualified lawyers in the UK to be promoted to partner and when he won the Birmingham Law Society Legal Executive of the Year Award in 2012. 
Paul’s experience and successes as a CILEx-qualified lawyer are impressive and we are sure that he would be happy to offer guidance for those on a similar journey. 
Why did you decide to become a lawyer, and at what age did you decide that the law was for you? 
I never left school with any burning ambition of becoming a lawyer. I knew I wanted to get a job after school, as my family would have struggled to fund any desire I may have had of attending University. My school’s career officer had put me in contact with Pinsent & Co (now Pinsent Masons LLP) who had a role in its debt collection department. I went for an interview and the role sounded interesting so at the tender age of 16 years old I accepted this and have never looked back. 
Why did you chose the CILEx route, and what was the process at that time? 
Having settled into the role, I was actively encouraged and supported by my then Manager to look at the CILEX route as a way to gain a qualification. Having looked into this, this seemed ideal for me as it allowed me to continue to work in an area I enjoyed whilst studying at the same time to gain a qualification.  
At the time, this entailed one day a week at College for the first part of the syllabus (foundation knowledge) followed by end of course examinations and this element took 4 years to complete. I undertook my fellowship exams at a then Polytechnic again with end of course exams over the following 2 year period. After gaining the necessary examination passes, I then had to undertake an additional 2 years’ work experience in the office before I attained the tile of Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives at the age of 25 years old. 
How would you compare your early few years in law, when you qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive, to those of your peers who qualified as solicitors? What were the difficulties you found and how did you manage them? 
It is fair to say that during my qualification period during the early 80s, and subsequently on qualification, people’s perception of Legal Executives was not great and we were very much viewed as glorified paralegals/PAs who could only be trusted with very simple administration tasks. People were not particularly well informed and had no idea of the study/examinations required to attain Fellowship status.  
Although I was lucky in that a Partner in the Insurance team asked me to go and work for him, and effectively took me under his wing and was very supportive, I always felt I had to prove myself and show I was as good as, if not better, than my peer group who were qualified solicitors. I may not have had a Law Degree but I had many years of experience which you just could not buy and it was heartening that over time my peer group of solicitors (and new trainees and less qualified lawyers) would come to me to seek advice/counsel on matters.  
I had been given an opportunity which I was not going to waste and during my early years I worked very hard, taking every opportunity available to better myself, get involved in matters and to show that I could be trusted. 
There seems to be legacy issues remaining in the market between those who have qualified as solicitors and lawyers who have qualified via CILEx. What is your take on this? 
I agree to a point that that there remains in the market this legacy issue around Legal Executives but some of the best lawyers I know are Legal Executives having attained Partnership in their respective firms. CILEx have done a very good job these last few years to raise the profile of Legal Executives and to educate the Market as to the qualities a Legal Executive can bring and the skill set they have.  
In my opinion, Legal Executives can play a vitally important role in any firm and the diversity this can bring to a firm should not be ignored. 
Cross-qualification via CILEx has become relatively common. What do you make of that? 
This in my view has been a very welcome development. For whatever reason, University may not be right for some. The CILEx route to qualification allows someone to ‘learn on the job’ with the ability to cross-qualify should they wish to do this later in life. 
Do you think that there is anything that the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives should be doing to help their members? 
I don’t believe so. CILEx have done a significant amount of good work to raise the profile of its members and to try and improve and maintain our standing in the Legal Community. 
What advice would you give to those who are qualifying or have recently qualified via CILEx? 
Take the opportunity you have been given and worked very hard for and believe in yourself.  
Ensure your employer is supportive of you as a Legal Executive, fully appreciates the hard work and study you have put in to attain the status as a Fellow and that they will support you through your career progression.  
Work hard, learn from your mistakes and take every opportunity afforded to you to improve and better yourself. 
About your team 
When you were considering a move, what was it about Kennedys that drew you in? 
I am a defendant professional negligence lawyer and my client base mainly consists of Insurers. When I was considering a move, I spoke to a number of firms but I was attracted to Kennedys given its considerable reputation in this area, its enviable client base, the support from existing clients to join, the number of extremely talented lawyers who work for it (a number of whom I already knew), its values and commitment and support to diversity and inclusion. Kennedys accepted me as a Legal Executive and provided me with the platform and support to continue doing what I love and thankfully the majority of my clients have continued to instruct/support me. 
Looking at the current market, what do the next 12 months look like for you and your team? 
We work in a very congested and competitive marketplace and as such the competition for work gets greater and greater. We must continue to be commercial, cost sensitive and listen to our client’s needs but at the same time continue to deliver excellent results and be prepared to ‘go that extra mile’ as and when required.  
It is all about trying to differentiate yourself from the competition, do things better and for less and look for all opportunities which may exist. 
After 3 years at Kennedys, how did you find the move and, now that you have settled in, what are you excited about achieving over the coming years? 
The move went better than I expected and I and my ‘team’ settled in well and integrated quickly. We were lucky in that there was an already established and well respected team in the Birmingham office, a number of whom we already knew, and who made us feel at home and part of the team very quickly. Clients have been very supportive and I am looking forward to continuing to work for them and the new opportunities which working for Kennedys has brought. Since arriving we have taken on a number of newly qualified solicitors, SQE trainees and apprentices and I am looking forward to working with them to help them gain experience and confidence and supporting their development. They are the future of the team and I owe it to them to pass on the knowledge I have gained over many years and to assist their progression. 
Now that we are through lock down and have found a ‘new normal’, what do you see as the largest challenges across the insurer market over the coming years? 
There is concern amongst some insurers as to what claims may arise from the “lock down” period when people were working from home with little or no supervision. We will have to wait and see whether these claims will materialise. Many are still spending only a few days in the office and as such there is concern that the junior members in the team are not getting the training/supervision/guidance that is so invaluable at that stage of their careers. Addressing this and providing the support they need to progress is challenging and we are actively taking steps to try and address this. 
What 3 qualities do you think are important for solicitors to develop to be successful in their legal career? 
You must be prepared: 
To work hard – just because you have a law degree it does not mean you know it all; 
Always be prepared to have a go – you may not know what the answer is but always have a go to the best of your ability and then learn from the feedback you receive or the mistakes you have made; and 
To get on and make the effort with people be that clients, contacts, peer groups or junior office workers. We work in a small industry and you never know when your paths may cross again or when you need help! 
A bit about you 
What’s the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome in your career so far? 
I have had a number of obstacles in my career but the main one was in my earlier days when as a trainee legal executive I felt I had to seek and gain the confidence and trust of those around me in what was a very old and established law firm. This was at times hard trying to balance work with study and my home life. Having then qualified it was disheartening to watch colleagues who in my opinion were less qualified rise through the ranks but I did not given my status.  
Thankfully, things have changed for the better and there is now a clear progression path for all legal executives in most firms and they do (or should now) receive the recognition they deserve. 
Looking back over your career to date, what are you most proud of? 
There are many things I could mention such as seeing how former trainees of mine have gone on to establish themselves, becoming one of the first Legal Executives in the Country to be made a Partner, winning the Birmingham Law Society Legal Executive of the Year Award in 2012 and the many client successes I have had.  
However, the main one for me was being tasked with heading the Birmingham office of a former firm having just been made a partner and then developing this and growing it into a very successful team. I was honoured to have the trust of the partners to take on this role and the support I had from my team was immeasurable. 
What is the best piece of advice that you have received? 
My old boss said that you should treat everyone as equals and how you would expect to be treated yourself. I have always adopted this in my working life. Manners cost nothing. 
What do you like to do to switch off when away from the office? 
Football is my passion and I have been a season ticket holder at Aston Villa since I was 13 years of age (so I did once see us win something!). I try with my eldest son to get to as many away games as we can as well. When I am not doing this, I help run my youngest son’s Under 14 Sunday league football side which keeps me very busy. 
Which 3 people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
David Beckham – sure he has some very interesting football/showbiz stories to tell 
Steven Gerrard – so I can impart some of my managerial wisdom! 
Prince William – we can share our love of Aston Villa and he can tell me what it is actually like to be a Royal. 
Paul is a well known name in the Professional Indemnity sector and is a partner in Kennedys’ Birmingham office. He qualified as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) in 1992. 
Paul is experienced across all areas of professional indemnity and regularly advises insurers on both policy related matters and in the defence of claims against a wide range of their professional insureds, most notably solicitors, financial service providers, accountants, construction professionals and brokers. 
Paul Chaplin 
October 2022 
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